Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Art Break: Hood

Art Contrarian looks at the fashion illustrations of Dorothy Hood.

Emergency Instructions

Found at Cultural Offering:


No Day at the Beach

The high today in Phoenix is expected to be 99 degrees. Wednesday is slated for 104, Thursday 108, Friday 115, and Saturday 117. It cools off to 115 degrees on Sunday.

Before too long, summer will be here.

The Call

  1. Preparing for the call.
  2. Waiting for the call.
  3. Wondering why the call hasn't been made.
  4. Wondering if you should make the call.
  5. Trying to work on other items while anticipating the call.
  6. Adjusting your schedule so you can take the call.
  7. Being called into an important meeting.
  8. Missing the call.
  9. Calling back and leaving a message.
  10. Items 1 through 6 above.
  11. Receiving the call.
  12. Analyzing the call.
Telephones save so much time.

It's Not Easy Being "Cool"

It's not easy being "cool." 

You can't ask the questions you need to ask in order to gain knowledge because, well, you are already supposed to have that knowledge by virtue of the fact that you're cool. The cool don't ask questions. They just know. 

And what they don't know isn't worth knowing.

You also can't admit to mistakes because the cool never make mistakes. You cannot be upset, worried, scared, sad or flat-out perplexed.

All of those aren't cool.

The cool are never in the process of becoming or improving. They simply are.

It is unfortunate that cool has often been associated with anti-heroes and shallowness. A far better version would include humility, grace, courage, kindness, integrity, and reliability.

That version would really be cool.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Gratitude is the heart's memory. 

- French proverb

Monday, May 30, 2016

Music Break

Aaron Copland's Symphony No.3.

Crank it up.

Teaching World War II in Schools

A fascinating talk by historian Rick Atkinson.

[One of the finest uses of statistics I've ever seen in a presentation.]

Respect and Remembrance

The American Cemetery in Normandy

Memorial Day 2016

Their sacrifices are honored and yet are often forgotten in the daily blur of the lives and freedom that they made possible. Without them, our lives would not be the same; indeed, many of us would not be here. Barbarism would have triumphed.

That should never be far from our thoughts.

Quote of the Day

Time will not dim the glory of their deeds. 

- John J. Pershing

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stars in Their Courses

Civil War historian Shelby Foote is interviewed about his book on the Gettysburg campaign.

[I could listen to Shelby Foote read the telephone book.]

Modern Life: Hiking the Grand Canyon

Some tips on hiking The Grand Canyon. [The part about "You might not be rescued" is candid.]

Hiking The Bright Angel Trail.

Rim to rim in a mere four minutes. [A highly condensed version.]

Hiking down to the Havasupai Falls. This area is far from the usual scenic parts of the Canyon. Permits are required. More info here.

Aircraft Maintenance and Your Assumptions

From Vanity Fair in 2015: Where do you think the major airlines get their planes repaired?

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Grand Tour

Muddy Colors has a tour of brilliance. The ability to carve the above is almost beyond comprehension.

"And this is a law that I'll maintain...."

An ode to political expediency: Theodore Bikel sings "The Vicar of Bray."


European Multiculturalism and Islam

Here is the first part of a speech by journalist and author Bruce Bawer on Islam, multiculturalism, and Europe. 

You can find links to the subsequent portions near the YouTube video.

Jeff's Back!

It is great to see that View From the Ledge has returned.

The Law School Blues

Althouse and others on the intellectual diversity problem at law schools

They don't believe in intellectual diversity and, unless there is economic pressure, they won't change.

"A Clean, Well-Lighted, Place to Blog"

This series at Eclecticity Light always sparks a smile and some envy.

London for Books

My trips to London have always involved visits to bookstores, large and small. It especially is fun to discover authors whose books are rarely seen in American bookstores.

Foyles is a tradition; a glorious hodgepodge. Check out some of its stories here including the famous one about a letter to Hitler.

What are some other bookstores that should be on my list?

Frequent Introspection

  • What are your strengths and how may they be weaknesses? 
  • What are your weaknesses and how may they be strengths? 
  • How can the fast be slow and the slow be fast?

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Do not let us mistake necessary evils for good.

- C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 27, 2016

First Paragraph

Until I was thirteen years old I lived at home and was taught by my father. Lessons occupied only two or three hours each morning, otherwise he left me to my own devices, sometimes helping me with what I chose to do, more often leaving me to work it out for myself. 

- From An Autobiography by R.G. Collingwood

Collingwood was the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford. The book was published in 1938.

Always Thought-Provoking

An evening with historian Niall Ferguson.

"He is universally despised...."

True West magazine has a "few quotations we shouldn't forget."


Authors for Dinner

Just authors. No one famous for anything other than their books. [No playwrights. Shakespeare would always have a seat. If he shows up we'll let him in.] Who should be around the table? My choices would be:
  1. Charles Dickens
  2. Leo Tolstoy
  3. Anthony Trollope
  4. Ernest Hemingway
  5. Jane Austen
  6. Patrick O'Brian
  7. George Orwell
  8. Marcel Proust
  9. Flannery O'Connor
  10. William Faulkner
  11. Mark Twain
  12. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I know Cultural Offering would pick Jim Harrison but he can make his own list. I also left off John Steinbeck, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, John Updike, and a bunch of other great ones so I'm skating on thin ice.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. 

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, May 26, 2016


When you are older the one thing that becomes clear is that you don't rebound like you did in your days of youth and dissipation. You can't stay up all night and then go out for breakfast and roar into the day with heavy but open eyelids. Your body says, "No, thank you" and the thought that you are missing anything is ludicrous because when you are older you know there is nothing out there that can beat a soft pillow and clean sheets.

Sad, perhaps, but true.

Art Break: Auster

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Ken Auster.

First Paragraph

When I was a young researcher, just starting out, something happened that changed my life. I was obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures, and I decided to study it by watching how students grapple with hard problems. So I brought children one at a time to a room at their school, made them comfortable, and then gave them a series of puzzles to solve. The first ones were fairly easy, but the next ones were hard. As the students grunted, perspired, and toiled, I watched their strategies and probed what they were thinking and feeling. I expected differences among children in how they coped with the difficulty, but I saw something I never expected. 

- From Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Getting Past the Gate

Several years ago, I contacted the Chief Executive Officer of a large organization. I'd done work with the organization during the tenure of a previous CEO and had studied their operations. My experience could be of assistance in some important areas so I offered to meet, at no charge, to meet and discuss some ideas. It was not a sales call. I would simply make my suggestions and then go away. It would be up to the CEO as to whether or not the ideas would be worth implementing. My motive? I knew they were heading in the wrong direction and wanted to change it.

I never heard back from the person.

Move ahead several years. Same organization. Different CEO. A problem has flared up. I am contacted. This time my advice is not free. A good third of the project could have been obtained at no charge earlier.

Now I know that people get wary whenever there is any offer that looks too good to be true. [At the very least, a "thanks but no thanks" letter would have been nice.] But I was not a complete stranger and my prior dealings with the organization had always been positive.

The experience reminds me of how difficult it can be to penetrate the barrier that protects decision makers. That wall exists for a reason: top executives have tight schedules and large numbers of people clamoring for their attention. Executives need gate-keepers in order to get time to think and to conduct regular business however the gate-keepers, although fine people, may become too strict a filter. I never expected to hear back from the CEO. I expected to hear back from a gate-keeper who would vet my proposal and then give his or her opinion to the CEO.

I once wrote a book on leadership which explored, in part, the gate-keeper issue. My analysis was quite sympathetic to those systems and yet was also in support of ways in which those on the inside can ensure that fresh thinking occasionally gets past the gate. It is easier for those on the inside to reach out to outsiders than for outsiders to reach in. 

Unless the leader pushes for that outreach, it is unlikely to happen. 

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

A star in the wrong role stopped being a star. 

- John Huston

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Remembering LBJ

The trailer for "All The Way."

Art and the Ocean

Muddy Colors is looking at ocean-themed paintings. It is hard to beat the above painting by N.C. Wyeth.

Modern Life

I sent a text message to one of my kids. In reply I received a video of a rabbit running in circles.

Staff Papers: A Great Substitute for Meetings

Many years ago when I left the headquarters of a major Army command in Washington, D.C., I assumed that the military's staff paper system would have its equivalent in the civilian world. That was a mistake.

Business and government agencies are meeting-happy. In some organizations they have meetings stacked on top of meetings. I've met individuals whose schedules often show them in two places at once because their meetings overlap.

This does not need to be. The classic military staff paper system permits a proposal to be circulated to relevant departments where comments can be attached. By the time the paper is given to the chief decision maker, the document provides a fine overview of what is proposed along with the attached concurrences, dissents or proposed modifications of other key players in the organization.

The system not only saves time, it also encourages more careful thought. Each contributor knows that his or her portion is in writing and is representative of the particular function. Their opinions are not off-hand comments at a meeting but are formal positions. As such, a well-coordinated staff paper is also a valuable piece of history showing the thought that produced a decision.

And just think, while those papers were making their silent way from one department to another, people were working and the number of meetings was reduced.

It's a great management tool.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes? 

- George Gobel

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gimme Your Dough

Political Calculations explores the question of to whom does the U.S. government owe money?

Work and "Millennium"

It was a workday in which one project after another was completed and where some interesting ones beckoned. 

I have additional work to do tonight but part of the evening will be spent with one of the most interesting and well-written history books I've read in years: Millennium by Tom Holland.

Check it out.

[Update: Holland's book will have special appeal to those of you who are interested in the Dark Ages.]

The Fat Briefcase

My fat briefcase is in my other office. There are six briefcases near my feet as I write this - no, make that seven - but not one is the fat briefcase. I've searched them for an answer and they've not come up to snuff.

The fat briefcase knows. That's why it's fat. When we get clever, we put things in special files. When we get ultra-clever, we put them in fat files or in fat briefcases.

The secret is to keep them nearby.

Dog Language

The dog has been trying to tell me something this morning. She has only partially followed her morning routine. More than is normal, she looks at me as if she wants to be "read."

Alas, no Dr. Doolittle am I. Something wild might be out there. She returned very quickly from her morning outing.

Catch Yourself

Catch yourself whenever you start assuming that organizations are loyal or caring. 

An organization is as loyal or caring as a light bulb. 

Those human qualities will come from the human beings within the organization. 

Catch yourself whenever you design systems for wizards or saints. 

The odds are you are not working with either group. 

You (and your co-workers) are working with human beings; frail and flawed people who are capable of great things but who can also make mistakes and who are trying, in most cases, to do their best in an imperfect world.

Catch yourself whenever you find yourself relying on other people "shaping up."

They may be thinking the same thing about you. Take charge of the one person you can control. Focus on what you can do to improve your conduct and your performance. It may not be as much fun as blaming others but it is a far better way to achieve progress.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

The good governor should have a broken leg and keep at home. 

- Miquel de Cervantes

Monday, May 23, 2016


Wally Bock, a very smart man, reviews Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Art Break: Willis

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Fritz Willis.

A Novel about Project Management

Dangerous Assumptions

That the other person has the same:

  • Values
  • Goals
  • Knowledge
  • Feelings
  • Interests
  • Standards.

Revising a Major Document

  1. Research
  2. Analysis
  3. More research
  4. Pondering a sparrow
  5. Identification of changes
  6. Drafting of changes
  7. Falling in love with the changes
  8. Wondering how an idiot slipped in and wrote some of the changes
  9. Staring in the mirror
  10. Writing new material
  11. Studying all revisions
  12. Going over it absolutely just one more time
  13. Going over it again
  14. Final draft
  15. Once more for good measure

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

There is too much emphasis on management technique, as opposed to knowing and seeing what the heck is going on. 

- Henry Mintzberg

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Night

Speaking personally, Sunday night either brings renewed enthusiasm or depression. Tonight it is the former. 


Because of a conscious decision to focus on the small things instead of scanning the horizon. Do one small thing and then another and then another. Keep doing the right ones and the horizon will take care of itself.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, May 21, 2016



The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say “When!” 

- P.G. Wodehouse


The Signing is a Nice Touch

Cultural Offering describes a dating ritual from a Texas family.

Film Break

The trailers for:

21 Reminders for Supervisors

  1. Remember that there is no such thing as a minor word or gesture.
  2. Don't violate discrimination laws but don't treat everyone the same.
  3. Give yourself time to think.
  4. Even firefighters don't spend most of their time putting out fires.
  5. Don't forget to thank people.
  6. Recognize that the atmosphere changes whenever you walk into the room.
  7. Strive to reduce the number of surprises for both you and for your employees.
  8. If the subject is sensitive, call or meet with the person. Don't send an email.
  9. Keep developing your skills and the skills of others.
  10. Set an example and talk about core values.
  11. If you make a mistake, admit it.
  12. Beware of taking undue credit.
  13. Use "we" more than "I" and let your conduct reflect that attitude.
  14. Be more wary of rapid agreement than of dissent.
  15. Take the time to hire good people.
  16. Coordinate severe discipline with Human Resources. Do so early.
  17. Don't tolerate cruelty or rudeness.
  18. Keep a constant eye on what's being rewarded.
  19. Don't manage your time. Invest it.
  20. Cut through the jungle of bureaucracy..
  21. Be benevolent and effective. You can be both.

[Click here for information on Michael Wade's online classes.]

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions. 

- Peter Drucker

Friday, May 20, 2016


Pulp Break

First Paragraph

Life in America is always getting better and worse at the same time. Progress comes at a cost, even if it is often worth that cost. Misery beckons relief so that our virtues often turn up where our vices have been. Decay and decadence almost always trail behind success, while renewal chases ruin. And in a vast society like ours, all of this is always happening at once. That means there are no simple stories to tell about the state of our country, and that upbeat and downcast social analyses are often just partial descriptions of one complex whole. 

- From The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin

The Thought Watcher

I'm in the restless thinking stage on several projects. 

Things converge and I quickly jot down ideas but then the thoughts fly off and I'm back to considering them from a distance. I'm not stymied - I know they will soon crystallize - and the restless stage is an essential part of the process.

Essential and yet frustrating.

I can see a legal pad and a cup of coffee in the near future.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

I have a simple philosophy. Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. Scratch where it itches. 

- Alice Roosevelt Longworth